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Lyndsey Adams ACF Abstract FY10

Intermediate forms of morality in non-human animals: Looking beyond primates for the evolution of moral behavior

Conference Name: Midwest Ecology and Evolution Conference (MEEC)

Morality is defined as a sense of right and wrong used by society to promote social behavior.   Most research on this topic addresses only the behavior of primates, but Darwin (1871) emphasized the continuity between humans and non-human animals and asserted that moral behavior, subject to evolution like other traits, should occur in some form in non-human animals. We propose three intermediate forms of moral behavior that must precede the advanced form of moral behavior characteristic of humans: (1) Understanding reward and punishment related to fitness, (2) Direct reciprocity, and (3) Indirect reciprocity. Form 1 assumes punishments and rewards are directly related to fitness without actor consciousness of how actions affect others. Form 2 links to kin selection and the detection of deception. These two forms occur in a variety of species, including insects, fishes, birds and mammals.  Form 3 includes third-party conflict intervention, and has only been observed in primates.   Transitional between form 3 and human morality are behaviors that anticipate others’ needs and intentions, observed in some canines, cetaceans and elephants, demonstrating morality beyond primates.  Each of these forms link to interdisciplinary analyses of morality, but are here presented in a cohesive model of the evolution of morality through natural selection.  Collectively these examples support Darwin’s assertions and begin to organize the complicated progression of the evolution of morality.

Lyndsey L. Adams, Masters Candidate

Dr. Jodee Hunt, Ph.D.